During the BP oil spill in 2010, Markey raised questions about the potential toxicity of Corexit

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (April 18, 2024) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan asking the agency to address concerns related to its recently revised regulations governing chemical dispersant use in oil spill responses. The letter was sent ahead of the 14th anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010.

The revised regulations, which follow a letter sent by Senator Markey and colleagues to the EPA in July 2022, take steps to support the use of more effective and safe dispersants, but fail to prohibit or discourage the use of Corexit, a toxic dispersant used in oil responses, including the Deepwater Horizon clean-up. According to a 2012 study in the journal Environmental Pollution, “when oil and Corexit are combined, the mixture becomes up to 52 times more toxic than oil alone.” Additionally, the revisions are unclear as to whether a federal official serving as an On-Scene Coordinator can overrule a local- and state-level Area Committee responsible for oil spill response that does not want to use toxic dispersants in its community.

In the letter to Administrator Michael Regan, Senator Markey wrote, “The EPA’s new final rule allows the continued use of toxic, known-carcinogen oil dispersants, placing the health and safety of oil spill responders and the public at risk. As the EPA interprets and implements its new rule, I urge it to take immediate proactive measures to ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, the regulations protect the environment and prioritize worker and public health.”

Senator Markey requested answers to the following questions by May 8, 2024:

·      Why is the EPA allowing the use of toxic and known carcinogenic dispersants Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A until December 2025?

·      Is the EPA planning to initiate a delisting process for Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A? If so, when? If not, why not?

·      Has the EPA requested disposal plans for existing stockpiles of all toxic dispersants? If not, why not?

·      What authority do Area Committees have in relation to On-Site Coordinators to prevent the usage of toxic oil dispersants in local waters?

·      What immediate precautions can the EPA recommend to the National Response Team and Regional Response Teams to protect worker and public health during oil spills?

Senator Markey was the leading Congressional investigator into BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and forced BP to post online the “Spillcam” of the underwater spill. In 2010, as then-Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, Senator Markey led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the Gulf of Mexico to assess the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its impact on the waters, beaches, and marshes of four coastal states, and to meet with affected communities and response teams. In May 2010, then-Rep. Markey queried the EPA on the dangers of applying oil-dispersing chemicals deep underwater as an effort to mitigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including the potential toxicity of the trademarked formulation, called Corexit. Also during the spill, then-Rep Markey queried the Food and Drug Administration for information on how Gulf of Mexico seafood that could be purchased and eaten by humans would be monitored for potential long-term exposure to chemicals, in light of use of chemical oil dispersants by BP. Fifty-two days after the start of the disaster, Senator Markey chaired the first Congressional hearing on Deepwater Horizon to investigate the cause and damage of the spill.